Timestamp #TW8: They Keep Killing Suzie

Torchwood: They Keep Killing Suzie
(1 episode, s01e08, 2006)

 

Suzie Costello: Master of Long-Range Planning.

Torchwood Three arrives on the scene of a grisly murder and meets Detective Kathy Swanson. The double homicide is framed by one word on the wall, written in blood: TORCHWOOD. Jack is immediately intrigued, and although there appears to be no link between the killer and the victims, the killer has Compound B67 in his blood.

What is that, you say?

Compound B67 is retcon, the amnesia pill that Torchwood uses to clear memories. The killer is one of the people that had their minds wiped. While the team investigates, Gwen recommends using the resurrection gauntlet to interrogate the victims. After all, if Torchwood caused the deaths, they should clean up the mess.

The first victim, Alex Arwyn, wastes his time screaming for his mother. The second victim, Mark Brisco, tells them that the killer – a man named Max – belonged to the Pilgrim organization. Mark also identifies a woman who was close to Max. Her name was Suzie Costello.

Yeah. That Suzie Costello.

Tosh researches Pilgrim, a religious support and debate group run by Sarah Brisco, and all of the victims so far are linked as members. The team digs into Suzie’s belongings – Torchwood retains possession after a team member dies – and finds evidence linking her to Pilgrim. They then use the gauntlet to resurrect her. Gwen has trouble bringing her back because she lacks empathy for the woman who tried to kill her. They deduce that she’s too far gone, but Owen suggests the Life Knife, a blade made of the same material as the gauntlet. Jack plunges it into Suzie’s chest and the woman bursts back into the world of the living.

Suzie’s shock prevents her from giving any information, but by some strange events, she’s still alive beyond the normal time limit for the gauntlet. In fact, she remains alive for more than three months. When the team tries to interrogate her about Max, she’s less than cooperative. She eventually reveals that she gradually overdosed Max, giving him one pill a week for two years while talking to him about Torchwood.

There’s that common theme of this season again.

Jack refuses to let Suzie see her family again. Resigned to her fate, she identifies a survivor: Lucy McKenzie. The team tracks Lucy to the Wolf Bar while Suzie watches from Tosh’s station in the Hub. The team misidentifies a man as Max, but the real killer shows himself and ends up on the business end of Jack’s stun gun. Max is confined in the Torchwood cells, but he only responds to the name of the organization. Quite violently, in fact, but for only ten seconds at a time.

Meanwhile, Gwen discovers that Suzie’s father has cancer. Gwen blames Jack for letting Suzie use the gauntlet, a device that could have reversed her father’s condition. Jack refutes her, and the argument is interrupted by Owen with news that Suzie is draining Gwen’s lifeforce. While the team learns this and Jack resolves to kill Suzie, Gwen springs Suzie for a little road trip. When they attempt to pursue, the base goes into lockdown.

Gwen takes Suzie to Greenleaves Hospital, during which time they discuss Jack’s immortality. Meanwhile, the team links the lockdown to Max, who is currently reciting Emily Dickinson’s The Chariot. The poem is an implanted Trojan horse, set up long ago by Suzie to force Torchwood to resurrect her. Ianto connects his mobile phone to the Roald Dahl Plass water tower and Jack calls Detective Swanson for help. He asks her to read a book of poetry by Dickinson. When the poetry fails, Tosh suggests using the ISBN instead, and that is the magic key. The base restarts and the team mobilizes.

As Gwen and Suzie arrive at the hospital, Gwen collapses as she slowly develops a self-inflicted gunshot wound to her head. Suzie kills her father and then takes Gwen to Hedley Point, intent on escaping via ferry. Jack and Owen catch up in the Torchwood SUV and Jack shoots Suzie, but Suzie won’t die. Jack empties his gun into Suzie to no avail, then realizes that the gauntlet is the link. He orders Tosh and Ianto to destroy it, but before they do Suzie reveals that there is something in the darkness beyond death. It is moving and it is coming for him.

The gauntlet is destroyed, Suzie finally dies, and Gwen lunges back into life.

Back at the Hub, Jack and Ianto put Suzie back into cold storage. They flirt back and forth before locking Suzie away, but Ianto reminds Jack that gloves often come in pairs.

 

The themes keep running through this season. Suzie has the same desire to connect with someone about Torchwood, but the twist is that she’s also a bit of a sociopath. This addition seems like an unnecessary one, but it also closes the loop surrounding Suzie’s mysterious actions in the pilot episode. She also sheds a bit more light on Jack’s history and his ruthlessness when it comes to his employees.

Finally, it paves the way forward toward a “Big Bad” for the season. Something’s coming from the realm of death, and Jack’s inability to die seems to be tied to it.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Random Shoes

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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Timestamp #TW7: Greeks Bearing Gifts

Torchwood: Greeks Bearing Gifts
(1 episode, s01e07, 2006)

 

Torchwood Three continues to fracture.

In Cardiff 1812, a prostitute named Mary leads a young soldier into the forest, but their lustful encounter turns sour when he gets abusive. Mary runs into the woods and finds a bright, pulsing light. The soldier catches up to the woman and shoots her.

Fast forward to the modern day where Torchwood Three has arrived at a construction site. As they analyze a mysterious skeleton, a woman who looks just like Mary smiles from the sidelines. The team takes the skeleton back to the Hub for further analysis, but some horseplay between Owen and Gwen results in Tosh’s computer losing power during a critical translation program.

Tosh ends up at the local pub where Mary approaches, reveals that she knows everything about Tosh, and offers to buy her a drink. Mary says that she’s a scavenger and collector of alien artifacts, and Tosh seems to bond with the woman. In fact, she seems to find comfort with Mary in nearly the same way that Owen and Gwen do with each other.

Mary offers Tosh a pendant. Overwhelmed, Tosh realizes that it enables her to read minds, but in time she is able to tune the ability. Tosh tries to give it back, but Mary insists that Tosh keep it. Tosh says that she’ll have to report it to her comrades, but Mary bets that she won’t. Tosh reports for work the next day and wears the pendant. She considers showing it to Owen and Gwen, but she discovers that they are sleeping together. She later focuses on Ianto and hears the darkness and despair that is consuming him in the aftermath of Lisa Hallett’s death. She takes the pendant off and heads home, only to find Mary waiting outside.

She confronts Mary over the pendant and its power, and Mary tells her that friendship is complicated. She offers the pendant to Tosh once again, and this time they share thoughts without agenda and resentment, including a proposal for sex. They sleep together, but Tosh regrets it. They eventually discuss how Tosh is attracted to Owen, and how she’s upset about Gwen’s affair with him. Mary offers the pendant as a solution, telling her to wear it in public so she can realize the good potential it bears.

She also calls herself Philoctetes.

Tosh listens to the thoughts on a busy Cardiff street. She finds a man who is planning to murder his ex-wife and son, follows him, and saves their lives. She returns to the Hub to find the team teasing Owen over the skeleton. It turns out that Owen made a few mistakes, including gender and cause of death. While Gwen and Owen continue their back and forth, Tosh asks Jack about Philoctetes. He tells her that the man was a Greek archer who was exiled to Lemnos for ten years.

He also name-drops UNIT. We haven’t seen them since last Christmas.

Later, over coffee, Mary tells Tosh that she should try reading Jack’s mind about the mystery item found with the skeleton. Tosh tries and fails, but Jack notices the effort. He also is very skeptical about Tosh’s rescue of the family from earlier. When Tosh reports back to Mary, she decides to tell her team about the pendant. Mary tries to convince her otherwise by revealing her true form: She is an alien exiled from her homeworld, and revealing herself to Torchwood could mean certain death or incarceration. After all, the human way is invasion, not help.

While Owen follows the clues in the skeleton, Mary asks Tosh to sneak her in and retrieve the device found with it. It is a transporter that can finally send her home. When she arrives, Tosh and Mary find Jack holding the transporter. He noticed Tosh’s distracted state and deliberately withheld the information from her. Jack also deduced Mary’s secret: The transporter is a two-being device, and the alien called Mary killed her guard before possessing Mary’s body. When the soldier tried to shoot her, she removed his heart and fed on it. She’s been feeding in the same way throughout history.

Mary takes Tosh hostage by knifepoint, demanding that Jack return the transporter. Jack negotiates, projecting a plan into Tosh’s mind, and enables the transporter once Mary takes it. He reprogrammed the device and set the coordinates to the center of the sun. The threat is over, and Tosh is understandably angry.

Later, Gwen and Owen confront Tosh over what she heard in their minds, but she says it was none of her business. Owen storms off, but Gwen admits that the affair is wrong. It’s also too attractive to her. She can’t stop.

Tosh later discusses the device with Jack. Jack leaves its fate to her, and Tosh crushes it beneath her boot. She asks why she couldn’t read Jack’s mind, but Jack is elusive. Tosh remarks that it was almost as if he were a dead man, but he comforts her instead of addressing the assertion, wiping away her tears and walking away.

 

This story ties in well with the Torchwood pilot. Recall that each of the team members were lonely, pursuing interests with alien tech but not with each other or anyone else. By the nature of their work, they can’t talk to anyone else about what they do, which led Gwen to Owen for solace and meaningful companionship. We’ve been building from there with this – apologies to FarscapeJerry Springer family and their troubled relationships with one another.

Now we’ve seen how their isolation plays with this family, it’s time to see them come together and unite over their common wounds. That may prove difficult with Jack’s hubris, which will likely drive Torchwood Three further apart before they can heal their rifts.

It was nice to have a Tosh-centric episode since most of her time in this series has been spent in a support role. Even though Mary’s deceit was telegraphed – she was such an enabler for Tosh’s uncharacteristic behavior, so she obviously needed something – Tosh’s isolation within the team is highlighted through her use of the pendant.

And it is heartbreaking.

Balancing the basic plot with beautiful character development for Tosh made for an entertaining adventure.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: They Keep Killing Suzie

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW6: Countrycide

Torchwood: Countrycide
(1 episode, s01e06, 2006)

 

It’s time for the Harvest.

On an overcast night, a woman tries to drive and talk on the phone at the same time. She happens across a body in the road and stops to offer help, armed with a baseball bat just in case. The body is a ruse with a soccer ball for a head, giving someone enough time to slash her tires, steal her keys, and attack her.

Torchwood Three drives to the country to investigate seventeen disappearances in a twenty-mile radius with no distinct connection. It might be the Rift spreading out beyond Cardiff, so that’s where the team starts as they set up camp. After a little friendly banter, Owen reveals his last kiss was with Gwen, and of course the team wants more details. After the discussion turns sour, Owen and Gwen go hunting for firewood, and Gwen chastises him for the revelation. After a brief altercation, they spot two hooded figures in the trees. When they give chase, they find a bloody, skinless corpse.

As the team investigates, someone steals the SUV and destroys the campsite. Ianto tracks the vehicle to a nearby village, which leads Jack and Tosh to believe that they’re being lured into a trap. The team splits up with a warning to be cautious. Tosh and Ianto go for the SUV while Jack, Gwen, and Owen check the nearby pub.

The pub and nearby houses are dark and deserted. The only occupants are two corpses, stripped similar to the first, and a young man named Kieran who shoots Gwen with a shotgun. He believes that “they” had come back for her, but the gunshot was an accident. After Owen tends to Gwen’s wounds, Jack tries to calm Kieran, but the man is hysterical and insists that they barricade the door. Jack decides to regroup at the pub and set a defensive position while they sort out the situation. The lights go out and the team hears movement outside and in the cellar. Kieran is dragged away, and despite Jack’s misgivings, Owen and Gwen pursue while Captain Harkness searches the cellar.

Tosh and Ianto find similar spooky circumstances. They also find themselves captured in quick fashion. They wake up in a cellar, completely disarmed, surrounded by old clothes, shoes, and a refrigerator full of human body parts. Tosh makes the connection that they are on the menu for their captors. The duo are soon joined by a shotgun-wielding woman named Helen, but she’s been sent to collect Tosh and Ianto for the Harvest, an event that happens every ten years. They are taken to the kitchen, which is full of body parts, and their captors reveal themselves. Torchwood is dealing with cannibals.

Jack finds one of their assailants. The hooded man was wounded in the pub fight easily spills the beans about the predicament. Owen and Gwen find a police officer and the village hall. Ianto headbutts the head cannibal, allowing Tosh to escape. The two teams finally converge as the lead cannibal tries to strangle Tosh but is stopped by Owen, Gwen, and their new policeman sidekick. Unfortunately, the police officer is a cannibal, and the team is taken back to the kitchen.

Ianto is first on the chopping block, but before he can be cut and bled out, Jack arrives via tractor through the wall and dispatches the whole lot with bullets to the kneecaps. It seems that the entire village has a tradition of targeting travelers every ten years and butchering them. When Gwen asks why, the lead cannibal makes it simple for her: “’cause it made me happy.”

The police arrive and taken the cannibals into custody. The team returns home and Gwen questions her life choices. She can’t share any of these life-changing events with anyone outside of Torchwood, and she takes solace with Owen because he understands.

 

There are a lot of fascinating elements in this episode. Owen and Gwen pursue a fling – Gwen is cheating on her boyfriend Rhys, with whom she intended to start a family – while threads of Tosh’s unrequited attraction to Owen are started. As far as the franchise goes, this is a story that abandons nearly every part of the Doctor Who universe: No science fiction, no superhuman abilities, no aliens, and no technology except the basics of the year 2006. The last time we saw that kind of story was Black Orchid.

While it wasn’t the first televised Doctor Who universe tale to utter the f-bomb – it was used once in Everything Changes and once in Cyberwoman – it was peppered throughout the slaughterhouse sequence. Given the post-watershed role of Torchwood in this universe, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The atmosphere in this episode is downright creepy, echoing films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (you choose the version), The Hills Have Eyes (again, you choose the version), Friday the 13th (preferably a version with Camp Crystal Lake instead of, say, Manhattan or a space station), and similar movies with omnipresent wraith-like evils.

Overall, I thought it was a wonderful (if not completely disturbing) ride.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Greeks Bearing Gifts

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW5: Small Worlds

Torchwood: Small Worlds
(1 episode, s01e05, 2006)

 

How do you stop a threat unbound from time?

A mysterious figure wanders through the midnight wood, sneaking up on a group of fairies playing in a stone circle. The mystic moment turns sour as she snaps a few photos and the fairies morph into something more sinister. Meanwhile, deep in the Hub, Jack wakes up from a nightmare in which a train car is filled with dead soldiers, their mouths filled with rose petals. He finds Ianto working late into the night, tracking strange weather patterns.

The next day, a creepy man watches children leaving school. One girl, Jasmine, catches his eye since her parents are late picking her up. She decides to walk home and he makes his move, but the fairies come to her rescue. Elsewhere, Jack and Gwen attend a small talk on fairies as presented by Estelle Cole, an old friend of Jack’s and the woman from the episode intro. After her presentation, Jack discusses Estelle’s findings and claims that she’s wrong about fairies being good creatures.

At Cardiff Market, the creeper tries to escape from the voices that drove him away before. He stumbles through the market, coughs up mouthfuls of rose petals, and gets arrested. Meanwhile, Jasmine arrives home safely. She goes outside to play and is tempted by the fairies.

Jack and Gwen accompany Estelle home to look at more of her fairy photos. Gwen finds a photo that is the spitting image of Jack, but Captain Harkness tells her that it is his father, and Gwen asks Estelle about Jack’s family. Jack asks Estelle to tell him if she finds more fairies before heading back to the Hub with Gwen. On the way there, he tells Gwen that fairies are creatures from the dawn of time that are not constrained by linear time. Once they return to headquarters, Jack instructs Tosh to monitor weather patterns for clues to find the fairies.

The creeper, Mark Goodson, confesses to being a pedophile, later to be attacked by a fairy. In the woods, Torchwood Three tracks the fairies to the stone circle and then responds to the jail to investigate Goodsen’s death. He was asphyxiated and his airway is filled with rose petals. They return to the Hub and receive a call from Estelle after she was confronted by the fairies. Before they can arrive, she is lured outside and attacked in a severe rainstorm. The team arrives to find her drowned corpse, and Jack reveals to Gwen that he was the man in the photo and the man who loved Estelle.

They met in the Astoria Ballroom when she was seventeen, and Jack tells her about his first encounter with the rose petals on a troop train in Lahore, 1909. Some of his men had mistakenly run over a little girl, and a week later they were killed by the fairies in the train car. The child was a chosen one, destined to live with the fairies – each of them children pulled from different periods in time – just like Jasmine is now.

Speaking of, Jasmine is bullied at school the next day, and the fairies sweep the area with a gale. No one was harmed, but the only person not affected was Jasmine. The fairies also set their sights on Roy, Jasmine’s mother’s boyfriend of five years, who was downright rude to Jasmine earlier. As the family celebrates the five-year anniversary with a party, Jasmine discovers that Roy has fenced off the entrance to the forest. Roy and Jasmine have an altercation, and as the weather picks up, the fairies attack Roy in retribution.

Torchwood arrives to prevent harm to the guests, Roy is killed in the fight and Jasmine follows the fairies into the woods. Jack and Gwen give chase, demanding that Jasmine not be taken away. The fairies warn that if Jasmine does not go with them, they will kill many more. Admitting he has no other choice, Jack requests one promise: Jasmine will not be harmed. The fairies agree, pledging that Jasmine will live forever. Jasmine skips away as her mother arrives, and as the girl disappears, her mother collapses in angry grief, hitting Jack over and over again as he apologizes.

The team is angry with Jack, giving him the silent treatment. As Gwen buttons up the loose threads in the Hub, she examines the photograph from 1917 as it flashes on the screen. One of the fairies is Jasmine, a smile upon her face. As Gwen looks on, a fairy voice whispers The Stolen Child by William Butler Yeats: “Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”

 

This was a run of the mill story with a creepy atmosphere and an unstoppable enemy. We get another glimpse into Jack’s mysterious past, which seems to be a common thread in this introductory season. There’s also a great amount of character development as Jack makes the hard choice: Sacrifice one child or countless innocents in an attempt to save her. There was no right answer, and I appreciate Torchwood for going there.

But otherwise, it was a mostly average adventure.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Countrycide

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW4: Cyberwoman

Torchwood: Cyberwoman
(1 episode, s01e04, 2006)

 

The fallout of Canary Wharf.

It’s another normal day at Torchwood Three, and that means multi-level basketball with the pterodactyl and drinks after work. Ianto is left behind, and he orders pizza before welcoming Doctor Tanizaki to the Hub. They head down to a holding cell where Ianto reveals his secret: A partially-converted Cyberman – Lisa, his girlfriend from Torchwood One – and a deep desire to save her from her metallic purgatory.

Doctor Tanizaki is a cybernetics expert from Japan, and he is over the moon about the opportunity to work with Cyberman technology. They take Lisa up to the autopsy lab and let her breathe on her own, but the team returns with news of a UFO sighting. Ianto leaves the doctor to take Lisa back to her cell while Ianto prepares for the team’s arrival. Unfortunately, the Cyberman programming takes hold and the good doctor is queued up for conversion. The power drain is noticed by the team – Ianto covers in a less than convincing manner – and the upgrade procedure fails. Ianto finds the mutilated body, but after he leaves to hide the corpse, Lisa begins to drain more power.

The team identifies the UFO as an Arcan leisure crawler, but the power drain redirects them to the holding cell with guns in hand. Owen and Gwen approach the cell while Jack and Tosh discover the video evidence that Ianto tried to delete.  Owen recognizes the Cyberman conversion unit from Torchwood One and alerts Jack. The Cyberman ambushes Owen and attempts to convert Gwen while Jack runs to the rescue. Jack tries to shoot the Cyberman but Ianto stops him. The conversion circuits have been transferred to a secure circuit, so Jack orders Tosh to cut all power to the base, resulting in a lockdown.

The team works their way back to the control hub, finding the Cyberman along the way. Once they get to safety, Jack orders Gwen and Tosh to find a way into the weapons locker while he deals with Ianto. Ianto explains that Jack doesn’t care about his life, and since Torchwood exists to end alien threats, he couldn’t trust Jack not to kill Lisa instead of curing her. Jack retorts that there is no cure and that the Cybermen are not to be taken lightly. Ianto refuses to give up on Lisa and asks to reason with her before Jack attacks again.

The Cyberman arrives in the Hub and Ianto fails to reach the human within. The Cyberman attacks the team and they run to the conference room. Jack orders Tosh to go to reception so they can open the weapons locker while Gwen and Owen look for alternative weapons in the base. The Cyberman confronts Jack, who is deleted twice much to the astonishment of Gwen and Owen, before chasing Tosh. When Tosh escapes, it targets Gwen and Owen, who hide in a morgue locker.

Jack revives and pulls Ianto out of the water. Meanwhile, Owen and Gwen share a quick kiss before her mobile rings and gives them away. Owen stabs the Cyberman with a scalpel – he also shares a few words with Gwen about his feelings for her – but the automaton doesn’t die. Jack douses it in a lure for the pterodactyl, and the dinosaur attacks while the team escapes via the water tower lift. As Tosh catches up with the team, Ianto confronts Jack. The power is restored within moments, but the pizza delivery arrives and the Cyberman feasts on the delivery girl. Ianto tries to stop the team and Jack tries to negotiate with him at gunpoint. He gives Ianto ten minutes to make the situation right before they come in guns blazing.

Ianto finds the delivery girl with a large cut across her forehead. The Cyberman is dead in the holding cell, but Lisa’s brain is in the delivery girl, and that woman tries to appeal to Ianto as she claims to be human once again. Heartbroken, Ianto holds his love one last time before pulling his gun on her. She isn’t human anymore as she offers to upgrade them together. Ianto turns away as the Torchwood team opens fire, ending the Cyberman threat in their house. Ianto mourns over both bodies.

The next day, Ianto returns for work. Jack and Gwen talk about how Ianto couldn’t bear to live without Lisa. Jack evades the question about whether or not he would actually shoot Ianto and whether or not he’s ever loved anyone to that degree. Together, they watch Ianto silently pick up the Hub.

 

As a Cyberman story, this is not a good one. As a character development story, it is fantastic. While the Captain Jack Harkness mystery remains at its status quo, we get an uneasy yet lustful admission from Owen… and Gwen didn’t seem to protest much at all. But most of all, we got to finally see who Ianto Jones is, and it is both tragic and well done. While quietly picking up empty soda cans and discarded pizza boxes, he was frantically trying to save the woman he loved even though it meant bringing an enemy to Torchwood’s gates. Had he been straightforward and placed all of his cards on the table, maybe the team would have been willing to work with him, but he believed that the team was unworthy of his trust. He’s nothing more than Torchwood waitstaff, and this incident told Jack in no uncertain terms that he had more to offer.

I’m very eager to see how Ianto evolves over the rest of the season.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Small Worlds

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW3: Ghost Machine

Torchwood: Ghost Machine
(1 episode, s01e03, 2006)

 

Visions and vengeance while the show treads water.

Gwen and Owen are running down the street in pursuit of an alien signal that Tosh is tracking, with Jack approaching via the roadways in the SUV. Tosh determines that their suspect is a man in a hoodie and Gwen is able to get close enough to snag the garment before the man escapes. Luckily, the device is in the pocket.

When she investigates it, the device causes the world around her to disappear. In a dream-like state, she sees a young boy carrying his possessions and wearing a tag stating that he is Tom Erasmus Flanagan. The boy says that he’s lost before the image fades, and Gwen tells her comrades that she’s just seen a ghost.

Back in the Hub, Tosh reviews the footage but sees no evidence of Gwen ever leaving the area. Jack orders a battery of database searches for Flanagan, but Owen is one step ahead with a phone book. Gwen and Owen visit the address and meet Eleri and her father. They have an alibi for the previous night, and while Gwen talks to Tom, Owen joins Eleri in the kitchen. Tom was evacuated from the East End in 1941 – he was eight years old – and sent to Cardiff. He was eventually taken in by a nice couple and never returned home.

As they leave the Flanagan home, Rhys calls Gwen and asks if she’ll be home tonight. Gwen is unsure and Rhys is upset. They return to the Hub and continue the investigation, determining (first) that the device is complicated nanotechnology and (second) that the thief is Sean “Bernie” Harris, a petty thief. They track him to Splott and find that Bernie has alienated everyone in the area. Jack tosses the device to Owen and taunts the team into working harder. As the team walks away, Owen is swept into another vision where he watches a woman named Lizzie Lewis in the 1960s. She’s assaulted by a boy named Eddie Morgan, dragged to the wall, raped, and murdered as Owen returns from the vision. He is shaken to his core.

The team returns to the Hub and digs into Lizzie’s history. Jack identifies the device as a quantum transducer, something that converts emotional energy into ghost-like visions similar to déjà vu. Owen wants to pursue Lizzie’s murder (which was never solved) but Jack tasks the team with tracking down Bernie instead. He sends Owen home to recover and takes Gwen to the shooting range.

After some practice with various arms and a somewhat rocky start, Gwen doesn’t do too badly. She checks her watch and decides to go home, wondering where Jack sleeps. He replies that he doesn’t. He also avoids the question of his loneliness. Gwen’s house is empty since Rhys has gone to a friend’s house to play poker, so she experiments with the ghost machine and some happy memories. Rhys comes home and the couple mends their bridges.

Meanwhile, Owen is stewing at home with the case files on Lizzie’s murder and a bottle of liquor. The next morning, he tracks Eddie to his current home on Prysse Avenue, uses a false identity as a gas company employee, and confronts Eddie about the murder. The old man angrily chases him out, and moments later Owen spots Bernie. After a humorous chase through the neighborhood – no one likes Bernie, so they point his pursuer in the right direction – Owen corners Bernie and takes him to a pub where Jack and Gwen catch up later.

Bernie stole the device from a storage unit and saw a vision of his own. His ghosts showed him a woman dumping a dead baby in the water, and he realized that he recognized the woman, but she gave him money to leave her alone. The team starts to leave before Bernie offers them the other half of the device, which Tosh assembles without much effort. They also take the money and the strange rocks that accompanied the device in the storage unit, but Gwen stops when Bernie tells her that the device showed him his death.

Gwen catches up with the team, eager to share the new revelation, but activates the device and sees a vision of the future: She’s holding a knife and covered in blood, Owen is dead, and she couldn’t stop it. Jack consoles her later in the Hub by telling her that it’s only a possible future.

Later that night, Tosh and Owen share a drink later and discuss Eddie Morgan. Eddie hasn’t left his house for years due to severe agoraphobia, and the team realizes that Bernie must have tried to blackmail Eddie. Meanwhile, Eddie calls Bernie, Gwen visits Bernie to console him about the vision of his death, and Owen reveals his earlier visit to Eddie’s house. The team converges on Bernie’s home.

Eddie overcomes his phobia and visits Bernie’s home, knife in hand. Gwen tries to calm Eddie down, but the man only spins up faster and blames women for making him turn bad. Jack and Owen wrestle Eddie down, and Owen threatens Eddie with the knife. Gwen talks him down and Owen hands her the knife, but Eddie rushes her and impales himself on the blade, committing suicide and fulfilling Gwen’s vision.

The team debriefs the situation at the Hub: Owen is glad that he didn’t kill Eddie. Gwen is shocked and feels guilty, and Jack gives Ianto the device for storage in the secure lockers. Jack takes Gwen topside to watch the sunrise as he helps her deal with her grief.

 

It was a pretty lackluster story with a paint-by-numbers pseudo-supernatural twist. Owen got some character development as a (sort of) white knight who tries to make people think that he doesn’t care, and Gwen continues to evolve in her new role as rookie, but not much else happens here. Any forward momentum they had after the last two episodes has pretty much stalled out with this tale.

 

 

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Cyberwoman

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW2: Day One

Torchwood: Day One
(1 episode, s01e02, 2006)

 

The birds, the bees, and the glowing purple cloud of post-watershed fun.

Gwen and Rhys have a night out with dinner, bowling, and a movie. Her first day at Torchwood is the next day, and she covers with a lie that she’s going to be working on keeping files straight. Their night out is interrupted by a meteor that blazes overhead and crashes nearby. Just like that, Gwen’s on duty.

Torchwood Three dispatches in a teched-out SUV, but they’re not fast enough to beat the police and military. After a brief conflict with the local authorities, Gwen and the team gain access to the meteor and start taking readings and samples. While sparring with Owen about the size of his chisel, she inadvertently breaks the meteor’s shell and releases a gas that flows through the air and inhabits a woman named Carys in the alley behind a dance club. She enters the club, finds a target, and takes him to the ladies room where they have sex. At the moment of orgasm, the man vaporizes and is absorbed, leaving only a pile of dust behind.

The Torchwood team returns to the Hub, and Gwen profusely apologizes. Jack and Tosh are fine with it since everyone makes mistakes, but Owen is Owen about it. Ianto brings news of the death at the club and the team rushes to investigate. They find the pile of dust, and thanks to a lecherous bouncer, video of the event.

Video? In the restroom? This is a super shady place.

Jack arranges for a body to be taken out of storage to stage Dusty’s death as a suicide. He also traces the energy signatures and finds footage of the cloud taking over Carys. While the team sort through the data over sunrise, Carys dozes through a lecture from her father over breakfast. Unfortunately for her, she remembers what happened the night before. In the Hub, Gwen’s having problems parsing the fact that Torchwood has access to information about everyone in the UK, a violation of privacy and social protections. She’s also still bristling at Owen being Owen.

Meanwhile, Carys tries to feed again, this time on a postal worker. Torchwood breaks in just in time and eventually captures her with the help of a portable prison that shouldn’t have left headquarters. Back at the Hub, Gwen interrogates Carys. The cloud inside recognizes Gwen and rejects the notion that it is here to invade. It just wants to feed on orgasmic energy, and Earth apparently has some of the best in the universe. Carys tricks Gwen into opening the cell and seduces her but, in the end, rejects Gwen because her target has to be a man.

Is this a preference thing for the alien being? I mean, all things considered, orgasms are a fairly universal occurrence.

Gwen leaves the cell with a promise to help Carys, takes a call from Rhys and vaguely deflects, and then returns to the Hub. Oh, and confronts Owen for being a lecherous git. Good for her.

Over a dinner of Chinese takeout, the team discusses Jack in his absence. Owen thinks he’s gay, Tosh can’t find any information in the databases, and Ianto thinks he’s CIA. They’re interrupted by Carys as she weeps over the monitor, and while Gwen confronts them about their humanity, Jack reveals that the computers are running a battery of tests. Jack challenges Gwen to show him what humanity means in the twenty-first century.

She does by developing a complete investigative profile of Carys’s life and showing Jack the woman behind the purple cloud. Jack is impressed, and Tosh reveals that Carys is producing a cloud of pheromones, which makes her a walking aphrodisiac. They realize that no man should go near her, realize that Owen is missing, and find him naked in an otherwise empty cell. Carys stole his swipe card and clothes before making a break for it.

Jack corners Carys and they battle with a table of weapons. Carys takes the mysterious hand hostage and escapes, but Jack follows via a secondary exit. Jack tells Ianto to let Carys go, and she distracts Jack by breaking the jar before running. Tosh and Gwen are unable to find her, and Gwen berates Jack for caring more about a severed hand than Carys.

If Gwen only knew to whom that hand belonged.

A now-clothed Owen demonstrates his findings: The gas will literally make its host explode – Rat Jam! – if it stays too long in one body. The team brainstorms, Owen says that he’d shag Gwen if he were infected, and Tosh gets an idea. Meanwhile, Carys walks to her ex-boyfriend’s apartment and dusts him. They follow her to her workplace, a fertility clinic that is brimming with orgasmic energy thanks to sperm donors. As Carys makes her way through the clientele, Torchwood arrives and finds her too weak to fight the alien any longer. Jack donates part of his life-force to bolster Carys’s defenses, and Gwen offers her body as a new vessel for the alien cloud.

When the cloud leaves Carys, Jack deploys the same alien containment device that Owen used to trap Carys earlier. While inside, the creature dies and leaves a pile of dust. Gwen kisses Jack, thanking him for saving her life and leaving Jack to pause and consider things.

Gwen and Jack take Carys home to her father. As they clean up the remaining pieces in the Hub, Jack warns Gwen to not let the job consume her. Gwen challenges Jack to come clean, but Jack says that the answers won’t make her feel any better. Gwen goes home to be normal, has dinner with Rhys, and goes to bed.

 

Torchwood certainly made the most out of their post-watershed status with this story, and it showed that they were willing to experiment with more mature speculative fiction. They also get to break some of the more conservative norms of the Doctor Who universe, particularly in frank discussions about sex. Jack’s omnisexuality is a big part of that, and I’m glad that the show was allowed to explore these characters.

The character development is a big plus in this second episode. When a product makes me actively despise a character – I’m looking at you, Owen – I know that it’s doing a great job building three-dimensional characters.

Overall, this episode had a well-built story with good human interactions. I really enjoyed it.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Ghost Machine

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.